Why we learn to hate rather than ignore in the age of Facebook

A few years ago Samantha, a new intern, joined our company. The first time I saw her she was walking down the main aisle between our row of cubicles accompanied by my boss and one of our legal guys on her way to a meeting with a couple of Canadian account executives from one of our firm’s partner vendors.

First day — first couple of hours — on the job and she was being whisked into a conference room for a high-level terms-of-reference meeting. Hmmppp

I overheard a few of my guy colleagues talking over the cubicle walls. Apparently, they’d done their homework. Samantha was an engineer just off a four-year stint with Accenture which recruited her fresh out of college in a prestigious private school in Quezon City. She had a double major, packing a combined physics and computer engineering degree in a tallish waif-like frame. These guys who you couldn’t count on to double-validate client requirements before submitting these to our boss for approval now swear by the bible truth of their info on Samantha. Gawd.

I thought at the time:

This Samantha person is someone I’m probably not gonna get along with too well.

That was then. I’ve known Samantha for several years now and we’re good friends today. As it turns out, during the last couple of years of her employment with Accenture, she had worked closely with the same vendor she met with on her first day with us. So she had the background to meet with those guys at the time. Justin, the guy sitting in the cubicle next to mine who had a full dossier on Samantha was actually a batchmate of hers in Accenture though he left to join us a year before she did. As for Samantha, she’s really a nice person behind a face blessed with a pair of big light brown angel eyes and pouty lips (I don’t know what it is about guys and those pouty lips). Turns out too that her fabled jetsetting life in Accenture was more like a droll two-way shuttling between Chicago and Manila every six to 12 months with only enough per diem to scratch a half-decent lifestyle in the Windy City over those tours of duty.

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[Image courtesy Athenna.com.]

Some of us are lucky enough to get to know more about the objects of our irrational envy before we descend into summary-judgment-fuelled depression over the life we could have been living. In the age of social media, however, many of us are stuck in a self-imposed routine of scanning a Facebook timeline filled with photos posted by mere acquaintances of Saturday night gourmet dinners, newly-unboxed iPhones, vacations in Thailand, and costume-themed pool-side Halloween parties on condo roof decks. Because most Facebook “friends” remain as such — mere acquaintances — we don’t get to know the actual people behind the glam photos and glib shoutouts.

There’s definitely something wrong with that state of affairs. But don’t take my word for it. Ask the experts.

Forbes.com cited in a report a study conducted by German researchers that found that an “astounding” level of feelings of envy is elicited in Facebook users by information appearing in their timelines.

“This magnitude of envy incidents taking place on FB alone is astounding,” the authors write, “providing evidence that FB offers a breeding ground for invidious feelings.” They also describe what they call the “self-promotion – envy spiral,” in which users who feel envious of their social media friends beef up their own profiles in response, creating a vicious cycle, in which “the envy-ridden character of the platform climate can become even more pronounced.”

In the real world, we tend to get less information from and about people we don’t know too well which means that the only really deep and detailed information we get about other people’s lives comes mainly from family and close friends.

In a world without social media, we would only be subject to our acquaintances’ tantalizing vacation pictures if they were close friends and sitting down for a cup of coffee. In these cases, the richness of the honest-to-goodness interpersonal communication would probably eclipse feelings of jealousy. But when it comes to online interaction, we’re assaulted with the annoying highlights of the lives of every Tom, Dick, and Harry we’ve clicked a button to accept into our lives – whether they’re actual friends, or people we’ve only met a time or two.

There you go.

“Samantha” is not my friend’s real name by the way. I chose “Samantha” because I read somewhere about a “rule” that says girls named Samantha often make the best blind dates. So I suppose, the name works well for blind items as well.

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5 Comments on “Why we learn to hate rather than ignore in the age of Facebook”

  1. High tech smartphones are wasted on low brow dumbkopfs.

    Social media user categories

    The inane
    The insane
    The urbane
    The plain jane
    The campaign
    The capital gain
    The mundane

    Technologically connected – socially isolated.

    It meets the need for people to be part of a community and a sense of belonging, and with that comes good and bad, or even imaginary girlfriends ( mati te’o).
    ‘Friends’ are unreal, but to some the feelings are real, and that is where the danger lies. Unfriend/unfollow someone and they can over-react.

    Rather than live a virtual life, more should live a balanced life, or get a life.

    P.s as ex-andersen/accenture we always said it was like a salmon swimming upstream. Mckinsey is better!

  2. @ Kate N

    Very timely subject indeed. But I noticed the lack of interest to join you in this good conversation. Is it because people think it is a womans issue? Or is it because the visuals do not connect with the subject?

    Envy and jealousy in the workplace happens
    every time a new hire is introduced. Why? Because present employees get that feeling of inadequacy why the company would bring in somebody to do the same task the rest are doing. It is a feeling of “are we dumb or what”? You know what I mean?

    My niece graduated with honors in one of the top business schools in America. At 22 she was hired in one of the financial houses in NYC, New York as a financial analyst making $200K a year to start. At 26, still single and now making $300K a year spending weekends in Europe, Armani suits, purchased a house in Cancun, Mexico, dominated conversations during family gatherings. Envy is the perfect word to describe her good fortune. At 27, she retired and pocketed $10 million in company shares and stocks, 401K before the financial meltdown 3 years ago.

  3. Filipinos learn to hate easily because:
    1. They’re balat-sibuyas
    2. They are conditioned to believe everyone else who is not “one of your own” is an enemy.

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